- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jim Zorn strode to a podium following a Washington Redskins practice Oct. 21 and answered a variety of questions for nearly 15 minutes.

But in a perfect example of how bizarre things have gotten during a disappointing 2-6 first half, one subject wasn’t covered: Zorn’s explanation for sticking with Jason Campbell four days after benching him in the loss to Kansas City.

Yes, in a quarterback town, even that position took a backseat, replaced by the addition of consultant Sherm Lewis, Zorn’s loss of playcalling duties, several key injuries and the leaky offensive line.

After several calm seasons, Redskin Park again has become a three-ring circus. From the opening week of the regular season, there has been no shortage of drama.


What happened: The Redskins fell behind 17-0 in the season opener at the New York Giants and lost 23-17.

Impact: In retrospect, it should have been the first sign of trouble. The offense was turnover-prone (Osi Umenyiora returned a fumble for a 37-yard touchdown), the defense was susceptible to big plays (the Giants had seven of at least 22 yards) and the team fell behind early. Plus, Zorn’s decision-making already was being questioned. He used two trick plays - Antwaan Randle El’s failed pass and Hunter Smith’s fake field goal run for a touchdown - against a team the Redskins weren’t going to beat.


What happened: In the victory over St. Louis, which included the Redskins going 0-for-5 in the red zone, right guard Randy Thomas suffered a season-ending right triceps injury.

Impact: Even teammates knew Thomas wasn’t going to make it through the season. What they didn’t know was how the position would turn into a revolving door. Former third-round pick Chad Rinehart lasted two games, Mike Williams lasted one week before moving to right tackle and former center Will Montgomery has started the past two games. Add right guard to the long list of Redskins’ needs after this year.


What happened: Detroit’s 19-game losing skid ended when it jumped to a 13-point lead and defeated the Redskins 19-14.

Impact: The Redskins showed how a team with better personnel loses if it doesn’t play with the same desire. The Lions, led by a rookie quarterback, put together first-half scoring drives of 99, 74 and 96 yards and sealed the game with an 88-yard march. The Redskins’ offense couldn’t get in from the 1-yard line on the opening possession when Mike Sellers blew his block and Clinton Portis was stopped on fourth down. In attendance for the game was retired NFL assistant Sherm Lewis.


What happened: Disappointed with the lack of scoring, Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato pulled Lewis out of retirement to become an offensive consultant and serve as “a fresh set of eyes.”

Impact: This move cut off Zorn’s right leg (the left leg wouldn’t survive the month). The offensive staff was blindsided by the addition since none of the coaches had a history with Lewis. During his only public comments since the hiring, Lewis revealed he was calling bingo games in Michigan before deciding to join the Redskins. That, along with their struggles against a soft early schedule, quickly made the Redskins a national punch line.


What happened: In a move somehow approved by the NFL office, defensive coordinator Greg Blache announced he will no longer take questions from the media. Secondary coach Jerry Gray became the defense’s spokesman.

Impact: It just further exhibited how certain people at Redskin Park are not accountable for their actions. A week before, Blache vowed to be a “maverick” in his playcalling and said criticism of the defense starts with him and how he’s fine getting thrown under the bus. A week later, he clams up.


What happened: On the Redskins’ second defensive snap at Carolina, left tackle Chris Samuels butted heads with defensive end Tyler Brayton. Samuels suffered a season-ending and potentially career-threatening neck injury.

Impact: An already battered line and a struggling offense lost its most indispensable player. For a decade, Redskins play callers and quarterbacks - and there have been plenty of them - could count on Samuels defending the blind side. On Oct. 23, Samuels was ruled out for the season and in a statement said he would wait three to four months to be re-examined and determine his future. Left tackle instantly became the Redskins’ No. 1 draft need.


What happened: During an inexcusable loss to Kansas City, Campbell is benched for the first time in his NFL career, but Todd Collins couldn’t spark the offense. After the game, Cerrato stripped Zorn of the playcalling duties and gave them to Lewis.

Impact: And there goes Zorn’s other leg. The Campbell decision was justified because the coaching staff thought Collins would be able to ignite a stagnant unit. That didn’t happen. What the playcalling decision forced was a hectic work week for the alienated offensive staff, which had to come up with a new way to call plays to compensate for Lewis’ lack of familiarity with the personnel and scheme. Snyder and Cerrato were slammed nationally for their treatment of Zorn.


What happened: Appearing on a Seattle radio show, Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent pounded the Redskins’ front office and ownership for how they deal with Zorn, a former teammate and longtime friend.

Impact: It certainly made for good radio. “To think [the playcalling change] is going to be successful, that’s a joke; that is really a joke,” Largent said. “The embarrassment lies at the feet of the people who made the decision, and that was not Jim. … I think it will be humbling and embarrassing for the Redskins’ owner and management that made the decision.” The consensus inside Redskin Park: Everything Largent said was true.


What happened: Cerrato started his weekly radio show by saying Zorn is the coach for the rest of the year “and hopefully into the future.”

Impact: Minimal. Although Cerrato called the situation “totally crystal clear,” players and assistant coaches just shrugged at the endorsement. The biggest disclosure is that Zorn said he wasn’t told by Snyder or Cerrato about the decision. Zorn added: “My deal is I’m the head football coach. I want to be here the next 10 years.”


What happened: At a charity event, Snyder broke his vow not to talk to the media during the regular season.

Impact: Hardly any because Snyder didn’t say anything. “We’re disappointed, and we’re embarrassed. And we hope to get it going soon,” he said. It didn’t register in the locker room because it wasn’t like Snyder was taking blame himself for the on-field struggles, off-field turmoil and the way the roster was built.


What happened: Former Redskins standout John Riggins continued his barrage on Snyder, saying on Showtime that the owner is a “bad guy” and his heart is “dark.” A day later, Blache responded.

Impact: Riggins’ comments should come at face value - he’s in it for the show business, and the latest assault wasn’t exactly creating shockwaves locally. But when Blache saw the quotes, he became so enraged that he gave a rambling four-minute defense of Snyder. Of course, he didn’t take any questions.


What happened: The Redskins were hammered in the first half and lost 31-17 at Atlanta in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

Impact: The game was costly from an injury standpoint - safety Chris Horton (toe) is out for at least a month, and running back Clinton Portis (concussion) is doubtful for Denver. It was a lot like the opener - the Falcons seized on big-play chances, scoring on runs of 30 and 58 yards and a 62-yard interception return. Five first-half sacks took a toll on Jason Campbell, who left the game twice because of injury.

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